Parents and students at a historic Bethnal Green C of E school are protesting against the council’s proposals to close it down next year with more than 1,000 people signing a petition in 24 hours.
Parents at the school – which has 815 pupils aged 7-13 – are unhappy and are worried about the consequences of the closure and its impact both on students and the local community.
Laura Gibson, one of the parents, said she was worried because her daughter had just settled in.
She said: “I want to get as many people to sign as possible.”
The parents and the teachers said that they were not informed of the plans until a meeting that was held by the Director of Education and partnerships for Tower Hamlets, Christine Mcinnes, on March 7. In the meeting, students were said to have cried and parents were outraged.
Gibson said that the meeting with Mcinnes “did not go well”.
She said: “It was totally disorganised.” She and other parents called Mcinnes out on how rude and disrespectful she was.
Raines accepts pupils from the borough of Tower Hamlets, but due to its location near the boundary with Hackney, students from that borough are also accepted.
According to Gibson, parents from Hackney, Newham and Islington are especially concerned because many schools in those boroughs are oversubscribed.
Gibson said: “They have nowhere to send their children at the moment.”
The council said: “We are working closely with colleagues in neighbouring boroughs, such as Hackney, Newham and Islington and have already identified a range of school options in these areas.”
Gibson also said that rumours about the closure have been going around during the Easter holidays. Students at the school asked their teachers for more information but they were not aware of the potential closure.
“It’s weird, they’re making a decision, then it’s going to the public gallery, so we can all step in and start saying what we want to say, but to be honest, the impression we’ve got is that it’s already done and dusted. The council have already decided that’s what they want to do, but it’s going to have a big effect on the community,” she added.
The council told Eastlondonlines: “Pupils, parents, staff and members of the community will be able to respond to the public consultation. The consultation will be live on the council’s website for four weeks starting in June.”
Sharon Adams, whose three children attended Raines and now has a grandchild there, said the news sent shockwaves through year 11 as they are due to start their GCSEs in a couple of weeks.
She said: “They’re very stressed out by this, some of them have been in tears.”
“How can they suddenly come out with this literally weeks before our children sit the most important exams of their lives.”
A letter sent to parents from Tower Hamlets Council said: “Unfortunately, Raines does not have enough pupils attending the school. Government’s spending for the school is linked to the number of pupils so school income has also been falling.”
Under their plans, current year 7-11 students would continue studying at Raines until summer 2020 before transferring to another nearby school – Oaklands. Current year 11 students have the choice to apply now for Oaklands sixth form but according to parents, they wouldn’t be guaranteed a space there.
The council told ELL: “Individual meetings are being held with Year 11 students and their parents to discuss the options for Post 16. All Year 11 students will have the opportunity to continue to their sixth form education at Oaklands school.”
Some parents are questioning whether the decision to close Raines would be so disruptive to students if the council had decided to merge Raines, and the other C of E school in Tower Hamlets, Sir John Cass Foundation and Red Coat C of E Secondary School.
Gibson said: “Other parents have said if they were merging with the other Church of England school, Sir John Cass, it wouldn’t be as bad.”
The fact that Raines is religiously affiliated and will potentially be taken over by Oaklands – that has no religious affiliation – makes the decision even less desirable, according to parents.
The council told parents that the children could get extra help, but this is not easing the minds of parents.
Children in year 10 will have to move schools in the middle of their GCSEs, additional help will not be provided until after the school closes. Gibson said: “If you try to move your child now they will go on the waiting list like everyone else.”
Children set to join Raines in September have now been told they will have to either put their children in Oaklands or find another school.
Ex-students and parents are saddened by the news and hope to reverse the decision. The comments on the petition point out the significance of the school within the community of Tower Hamlets. Its history and the fact that it’s one of just two Church of England schools left in the borough.
A former head girl told Eastlondonlines: “Many, including myself, are disgusted at the way Raine’s possible closure has been handled. I am now a teacher myself, and all of us in education have a duty of care to the students in our charge.”
“Raine’s Foundation School, its staff and its pupils have been failed by the council year in and year out, with Tower Hamlets seemingly opting to take the lazy way out of dealing with debt created by dropping numbers and ridiculous budget cuts.”
Parents, students and alumni are signing and sharing the petition in hopes to raise awareness. Adams is appalled by the council’s treatment of the historic school: “It was absolute uproar, there was only one person from the council there.”
“My daughter said that she [Mcinnes] didn’t have a clue, she couldn’t answer any questions. The only reason that they gave was that the intake was falling.”
A council spokesperson told Eastlondonlines: “Unfortunately, many parents in Tower Hamlets have been opting not to apply and take up school places at Raine’s Foundation school for a number of years. This means that the school is currently half empty.”
“The council will take both the petition and the outcomes of the public consultation into account when making a final decision on the school in February 2020.”